The Fall and Rise of Karam

Karam, which made a name for itself with brilliant roast chicken, baba ghanoush, and other homey chow, was an anchor of Middle Eastern Bay Ridge back in the day. Then, after a while, it wasn't, recounts Jim Leff, who witnessed its decline in the mid-'90s. Now Karam is back, enjoying what Jim calls "a golden period." On his first return visit in a long time, he found nearly perfect chicken shawarma and remarkable baba ghanoush ("maybe better than the old days"). And, he observes, "they get all the little stuff right"; toum, the Lebanese lemon-garlic sauce, is as great as ever.

Others are noticing, too. carfreeinla, a past skeptic, is a convert to Karam's rotisserie chicken, which has recently been "over the top great." Amy Mintzer loves the savory pies, filled with spinach or chicken, and apricot "pudding," a purée of dried fruit with raisins and almonds—too sweet by itself, to her taste, but exquisite when mixed with yogurt.

Karam's renaissance could be a response to stiffer competition. Jim has spotted a fresh crop of Lebanese eateries in Bay Ridge, possibly signaling a wave of new immigration in one of New York's oldest ethnic communities. One welcome newcomer is Samia's, a takeout spot where he found terrific baklava and spinach pies plus "about the best zaatar bread I've ever had." Another is Cedars, a sweet shop where Wet Towel scores first-rate pastries and ice cream. "I need to go back and try more," Jim resolves. "There's much exploring to be done in the nabe."

Karam [Bay Ridge]
8519 Fourth Avenue (between 85th and 86th streets), Brooklyn
718-745-5227

Samia's [Bay Ridge]
7924 Third Avenue (between 79th and 80th streets), Brooklyn
718-748-3337

Cedars [Bay Ridge]
7204 Fifth Avenue (between 72nd and 73rd streets), Brooklyn
718-238-8111

Discuss: Lebanese Bay Ridge (plus Paneantico)